WTNYJanuary 04, 2004
Nueve Gordo Padre
By Bryan Smith

I'm still on vacation to all those who keep coming back looking for new content, but I figure I have enough time today to write on the David Wells situation. So, here goes...

In case you didn't hear, David Wells has signed a one-year, $1.25M contract with the San Diego Padres, with enough incentives to make the deal worth $7M. He broke a verbal agreement to sign a minor league deal with the Yankees, quite reminiscent of what he did to Jerry Colangelo two years back.

Wells'National League experience is limited to interleague games, and an 11-start stint with the Reds in 1995, where he went 6-5, with a 3.69ERA. Wells has exactly 200 wins in his career, and has found a second wind after a fairly ugly 1999-2001.

Last season Wells went 15-7 in 31 appearances (1 in relief), compiling a 4.14ERA during that time. His BAA was .286, well above his career mark, and joining only three seasons during which he's allowed a batting average against above .280. Those seasons were 2001 (4.47ERA), 1996 (5.14ERA), annd 1992 (5.40ERA). The reason Wells was able to keep his ERA down was walks. While they never have posed a problem for Boomer in the past, his BB/9 was the lowest in his career, and his 5.05K/BB is one of only three seasons that he's topped five, along with 2000 (4.12ERA) and 1998 (3.47).

Some good news for Wells is that he won't be pitching in Yankee Stadium anymore, as his ERA was 4.89 at home. He was 7-2 with a 3.36ERA on the road, although it's unknown how PETCO Park will play out for southpaws. Wells has always sat along the league average in terms of groundballs and flyballs, but he should benefit from not having the likes of Jeter, Soriano, and Giambi behind him next season.

Wells showed signs of age and/or fatigue in the second half, only going 4-4 with a 4.71ERA. The worst of that came in August, when Wells allowed 22 earned runs in 22.1 innings, which translates to an 0-2, 8.87ERA record. He bounced back in September, and had a nice playoff run as well. There were no significant injury problems during his two-year return with the Bronx Bombers, so there is no reason to believe his once-faulty back should hurt him in San Diego.

For the Padres, this creates an interesting situation in their starting rotation. Guaranteed slots are Wells, Brian Lawrence, and young phenom Jake Peavy. Adam Eaton pitched well while returning from arm surgery a year ago, showing huge promise, and he should land a spot as well. That means the team will have newly acquired pitchers Sterling Hitchock and Ismael Valdes fight for the last spot, with the expensive Kevin Jarvis getting a shot (unless he's traded for Jeff Cirillo this week).

Hitchcock has relief experience, appearing in 81 games as a reliever during his career, including 46 during the last two seasons. But, Sterling had a very nice run starting with the Cardinals in September, and is also guaranteed money by the Padres. Valdes signed a non-guaranteed contract, which is likely to make him a free agent come April 1. Valdes hasn't relieved actively since his rookie season in 1994, but has been very frustrating for teams ever since his wonderful 1995-1997 seasons in Los Angeles. My guess is that Hitchcock wins the job, and Valdes will land a rotation slot with a team that loses a starter to injury during Spring Training.

As for Steinbrenner's boys, this shouldn't hurt them too much, since Jon Lieber is still slated to pitch in the fifth hole. Some have rumored that the Boss will go after Cuban flamethrower Maels Rodriguez, after he works out for teams this month. Chuck Finley was contacted by the team, but declined an offer to pitch on the East Coast. The New York Times ran an article quoting a scout saying they need a left-hander for Yankee Stadium, likely leaving King George quite frustrated. If that doesn't make a person happy, what will?

I was very pleased to receive word of this transaction on my vacation for two reasons. One, the idea of Wells and Barry Bonds facing off numerous times should be entertaining in the least. Secondly, are there two better teammates in baseball than David Wells and Rod Beck. Just imagine them sitting in the clubhouse after a game, throwing back beers, weighing in at a combined weight of 500 pounds...